The USDA is seeking proposals for projects that will bring partners together to help farmers, ranchers and private nonindustrial forest landowners implement beneficial water and land conservation practices.
"Farmers, ranchers and owners of forest land play pivotal roles in protecting and enhancing natural resources," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Our goal is to support projects that will improve the health of the natural resources on their land and bring the environmental and economic benefits of conservation to their local communities."
The requirements for submitting project proposals for the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) and the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI) can be viewed at www.regulations.gov. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide financial and technical assistance to eligible producers in approved project areas.
Through AWEP, NRCS provides support for projects that conserve and improve water quality, use irrigation water efficiently, mitigate the effects of drought and climate change and take other actions that benefit water resources. NRCS enters into partnership agreements with federally recognized Indian tribes, state and local units of government, agricultural and forestland associations, and nongovernmental organizations to help landowners plan and implement conservation practices in designated project areas.
Twenty-eight projects approved for AWEP in fiscal year 2010 are supporting water conservation efforts in nine states. For example, in central Colorado, satellite and Internet technology funded through AWEP allows farmers to monitor water-use data in real-time. This information helps them decide how much water to use on their crops, when to apply irrigation water and what type of irrigation equipment will work best for their operations.
Through CCPI, NRCS and partners assist producers in implementing conservation practices on agricultural and nonindustrial private forest lands. NRCS leverages financial and technical assistance with partners' resources to install soil erosion practices, manage grazing lands, improve forestlands, establish cover crops, reduce on-farm energy usage and other conservation measures. CCPI is open to federally recognized Tribes, state and local units of government, producer associations, farmer cooperatives, institutions of higher education and nongovernmental organizations that work with producers.
Twenty-six projects in 14 states were approved for CCPI in FY 2010. NRCS and Trout Unlimited in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley are using CCPI to restore brook trout habitat and improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. The goal is to install nearly 26,000 feet of fencing to prevent livestock from entering streams within the bay's watershed. This action is expected to improve nearly 10 miles of stream habitat. The project also will restore 20 acres of streamside vegetation to keep pollutants from entering waterways and stabilize soils on 2 miles of stream banks to prevent sediment from clogging waterways downstream.